Search Marketers’ 5 Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction. Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction.

Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

First, What Is Internal Linking?

Internal links connect the pages of your website to one another. You may be discussing a topic like making sunflower oil and link to a previously written article on different types of equipment you can use in this process. Doing so helps apply structure and logic to the design of your website.

By adding internal linking, you can:

  • Define the architecture of your website
  • Help users navigate through your site
  • Give pages throughout your site more “SEO power” to help ranking and authority

Internal linking helps Google and other search engines find clear paths to your content. They also encourage users to linger on your website longer and build a tight network of posts and pages.

How Are Internal and Inbound Linking Different?

Inbound links, also commonly called backlinks, connect one external website to another. Your online reputation rises whenever an external site makes a legitimate link back to your webpage. It is a digital representation of a recommendation. Someone is confirming that your website is a valuable resource on a specific subject.

Inbound links are also an important factor in Google’s assessment of how well you conform to E-A-T standards.

  • E — Expert
  • A — Authoritative
  • T — Trustworthy

That is how Google decides how well sites rate when it comes to answering user queries. The higher your E-A-T factor, the better your overall rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

OK, now that you understand inbound links let’s switch the focus back to internal links…

How Do Internal Links Affect SEO?

Internal links also play a significant role in E-A-T. You strengthen the optimization of your site and make it easier for Google to assess how well you rate in responding to search requests. This helps Google more easily index your pages and, hopefully, result in better search rankings for your website.

If your analysis of your inbound links shows most of them coming to your homepage, that is a sign that your pages are not fully optimized. You want to see users coming to your internal pages and then making their way to your homepage. External links should target various pages around your site.

Strong internal linking creates better indexation and clear paths to relevant content around your site. It helps contribute to a pyramid-style structure of your website, meaning there are very few links (or pages) between your homepage and other site pages, helping them achieve stronger ranking power.

Tips on Improving Your Internal Linking

You should keep the following in mind when adding internal links to content throughout your website. Please note that you should no longer need to stuff internal links with keywords, a popular SEO method from prior years.

  1. Use Anchor Text instead of navigational text or images to increase the value of your internal links in search engines.
  2. Make Sure You Have a Lot of Content Pages around your site. The better your information, the longer users will linger.
  3. Link as Deeply as Possible and stay away from links to pages already included in your main navigation like your Home page. Make those links as natural as possible for a better content marketing strategy.
  4. Make Your Links Relevant to the information users need. Don’t send users to a page about red sneakers when they are interested in details on orthopedic inserts.
  5. Avoid Overkill. While internal linking can be a powerful SEO tool, adding too many can end up being less useful for the user. That means no blocks of link footers at the bottom of your page.

Summary

Keep the following in mind when it comes to internal linking.

  1. Make sure your internal links provide a clear path to relevant information for a user.
  2. Understand the difference between internal and inbound links. Both can be leveraged in improving your site SEO.
  3. Follow best practices when creating internal links. Avoid misleading links, keyword stuffing, and overloading of internal links within your content.

Want more tips to improve your search engine optimization? Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

How Your Site Speed Could Be Slowing Your Business Growth

Site speed not only hurts conversions, but it can also hold back your search engine optimization efforts. Learn how to identify and fix site speed issues that may be slowing your business growth.

Imagine that you are casually browsing through a clothing store and something catches your eye. You are interested in buying the item, but all the lines are backed up in the store. Not wanting to wait around, you put the item back on the shelf and move on to a different store.

That same scenario can happen on your website if your site speed is too slow. And the end result is the same — lost sales.

The Impacts of a Slow Site

Your website should be capable of allowing visitors to quickly answer questions that inform their decisions on making a purchase or using your business’s services. They do not want to wait around forever to read a product description or to go through checkout with items in their online cart. Every second your visitors waits around is a potentially lost conversion.

Fifty-three percent of mobile users abandon a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Here are other ways a slow website can impact your business prospects.

  1. Lower Search Engine Rankings — Google began using site speed as one of its criteria for organic search rankings back in 2010. It updated the algorithm in July 2018, making speed an even more critical factor. That means your best SEO efforts could go to waste if the pace of your site causes high bounce rates.
  2. Poor User Experience — Slow load times discourage users from revisiting your site. Seventy-nine percent of web shoppers won’t return to a slow-moving website. (Opens as a PDF)
  3. Bad Word of Mouth  — The impacts of slow load times extend beyond a single visit. Forty percent of visitors let others know about the bad experience they had, which keeps other potential customers from paying a visit. (This PDF shows that percentage is higher)

You can see a lot of money spent on advertising and other digital marketing go down the drain, thanks to slow website speeds.

Testing Your Site Speed

Speed tests on your website will tell you how fast your website moves for visitors and how search engine algorithms would rank you.

Speed Tool Options

  • PageSpeed Insights — PageSpeed Insights from Google measures your site speed and gives you details on improving your load time. The tool can also be accessed from Google Analytics under Site Speed in the Behavior section.
  • GTmetrix —  GTmetrix provides you with feedback on your site loading times and makes recommendations on improvements and optimizations. It also offers a guide full of suggestions on optimizing your WordPress pages.
  • WebPage Test — Use WebPage Test to find out what’s happening behind the scenes of your site. One great feature offered is the ability to test loading from different devices and server locations.
  • TestMySite — This Think With Google tool informs you of areas around your website where you have an opportunity to improve your page load time on mobile devices.

Many of these tools do not require administrative access to a website, meaning they can be run on both your own and competitor sites. You can gain insight into rankings for both yourself and rivals in search engines.

Improving Your Site Speed

Once you have a good idea on where your site ranks speed-wise, you can opt for a variety of tools to improve your page loading. One thing you can start doing is tracking any alerts Google puts out around changes to its speed algorithm, which usually happens six months before they go into effect. Use that time to make some of the following updates to improve your site-load time.

  1. Utilize Website Cache — If you’re not already using cache, then this is a quick way to improve your site speed. Think of cache as a copy of your webpages that can be served much faster to visitors.
  2. Use AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) — AMPs point your standard HTML web page to a stripped-down version for mobile devices. They load much more quickly, cutting load times by as much as 85 percent.
  3. Watch Your Image Size — As much as you might love the header image on your site, the size of it might be impacting your page speed. It is recommended that you keep web pages under 500 KB in size.
  4. Think About User Intent — Because so many users issue voice commands, it is essential that your site accounts for conversational queries vs. static keyword phrases, which can make searches faster for visitors. Localizing your content can also speed up searches issued by users in your area.
  5. Review Your Site Construct — Take the time to have your page documentation reviewed. Unwieldy JavaScript and CSS can add to your page load times.

Summing It Up

Slow site speed can stunt the impact of any digital marketing plan. Use the recommended tools above to measure your site speed and get insight on how to improve your site speed on web and mobile. Lastly, review your site content for ways to reduce your page size and improve page loading.

Investing the time to improve your site speed will improve the user experience and ultimately boost your conversion rates.

Do you want more tips to improve your SEO? You can  grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

Important Key Performance Indicators for SEO

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

Success online depends on how well you are optimizing your website and marketing your brand off-site. Times have changed, so have key performance indicators for SEO, and it’s no longer easy to rank a website for whatever keywords you believe people are searching for on Google. A lot goes into the process, and because there is an extensive process, you need to find a way to track the results of it to see if what you’re doing is successful. Here are the new, important KPIs.

How to Track SEO Success

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

KPI 1: Traffic

The first KPI to monitor your SEO is website traffic from organic search. To track this KPI, use Google Analytics. Analytics is free and easy to install on nearly every website platform. Once installed, go to the “Channels” report within the “Acquisition” section. By default, the Channels report will show you how much traffic is coming from organic search (AKA, your SEO traffic).

KPI 2: Leads

The next KPI you should track is leads from organic search. Conversions are obviously your goal, so knowing how many leads you’re generating is critical for monitoring your SEO performance.

To measure leads, you’ll need to set up “Google Analytics Goals.” A Goal can be a website form submission (ex: a quote request, a demo request, appointment request, etc.) or a phone call. Tracking phone calls within Analytics requires a phone call tracking tool, like Dialogtech or Convirza.

KPI 3: Rankings

The third KPI is your keyword rankings. Contrary to popular belief, ranking your website high in the search engines is not the No. 1 goal of search engine optimization. The No. 1 goal is to drive more leads and sales, which is why traffic and leads are the first two KPIs listed above.

Of course, keyword rankings are important, and you want to monitor trends to spot opportunities to drive more traffic and leads or to spot potential problems that could decrease your traffic and leads.

To track your keyword rankings, use a paid tool, such as RankRanger and/or a free tool like Google Analytics. By default Google Analytics, does not show keyword rankings until you connect your account to “Search Console.”

KPI 4: Website Bounce Rate

Website bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit the site and then leave without visiting another page. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors couldn’t find what they were looking for when they clicked through to your site. A low bounce rate means that visitors found something on the page they were interested in, and then navigated to other pages of the site.

Bounce rate has a lot to do with conversions. Many times, a page with a low bounce rate has a high percentage of conversions. In other words, people who visit the page are interested in the content and because of that, they act on it. When the bounce rate is high, conversions are lower, because the people going to it are not interested in the content.

Paying attention to bounce rate helps you know how well you’re targeting the right audience. If you see that a particular page has a high bounce rate from Google Search, then your message is not matching the market. Adjusting that content to better match the intent of the searcher will not only reduce the bounce rate; but in turn, you’ll improve the rankings and leads!

Stop Stabbing in the Dark and Track KPIs for Success

If you don’t track your KPIs, you’re simply stabbing in the dark when trying to be successful with your SEO. Start tracking your SEO traffic, leads, rankings, and bounce rate, and then adjust your marketing plan based on the results. When you do this, you’ll likely end up seeing much more success.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.” (Link requires email registration.)

Mobile Site Speed Google’s Priority for Indexing

Mobile site speed is Google’s priority now for rating sites. The search giant made the move to mobile-first indexing in March, after giving site owners about 18 months to prepare for the switch.

Mobile site speed is Google’s priority now for rating sites. The search giant made the move to mobile-first indexing in March, after giving site owners about 18 months to prepare for the switch.

Savvy site owners did not wait for the mobile site speed change to happen before optimizing to meet this new emphasis. With mobile indexing, Google uses the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking.

Gone are the days of weak, thin mobile presentations. This gives searchers, who now predominantly use mobile devices, a better user experience. To further benefit this huge user base, Google announced in January in the Webmaster Central Blog that in July of 2018 slow-loading content wouldn’t perform as well for both desktop and mobile searchers.

As the calendar slips over to July, a new study by Searchmetrics shows that site owners have heeded the warnings. The results are in already, and if your site is not speed-ready, you are already being left at the starting line in the race for top rankings.

What Makes a Rankings Winner in the Mobile Indexing Era?

The answer is simple: Speed.

Mobile users want their information delivered instantly, and Google seeks to maximize user satisfaction by ranking the faster pages first in the results. The Searchmetics study clearly shows that the race for rankings is already being won by the fastest sites. Although the study is loaded with useful and interesting insights, the two biggest takeaways are:

  1. For pages ranking in Positions 1 to 5 in the search results, pages load faster with each improvement in ranking position.
  2. Mobile pages ranking in Positions 1 to 5 load faster than those ranking from six to 15.

Site speed is hard to define; and over the years, I have personally had numerous disagreements with site owners on just how fast, or usually slow, their sites are.

In a word, if you are looking at speed as an SEO ranking factor, which it clearly is, employ the tools and methodology that will be used in ranking your site. In my practice, I have used a variety of tools over time. My current favorites are Google Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights. My logic has always been that if Google is measuring my site speed, then let’s see if I can mirror its results so that any improvements are framed in its context.

The Searchmetrics study indicates that pages must load in under 2 seconds. Although the mobile site speed results varied somewhat by industry segment, the rule of thumb coming out of this study is as follows: Forget about making incremental changes. Unless you can come within the 2-second limits, you will not break into the top five. The top five results are faster than six to 15.

What About AMP?

The use of AMP (accelerated mobile pages) is growing. These pages typically mirror the desktop pages. The study found that across all industries, AMP pages were found on the first results pages for three out of five (61%) keywords. AMP is most common in media (87% of keywords), the first adopters.

AMP is also now found on more than half of SERPs in finance, e-commerce and travel. E-commerce pages lag just a tiny bit in speed. This is expected, given the heavy use of scripting needed to present all of the bells and whistles buyers expect to find in a commerce site; however, this is no excuse for not striving to achieve the speed needed for top rankings.

Although speed has only just officially become a ranking factor in July, the race is well underway and winners are already lining up for their rewards.

#Mobilegeddon Is 2015’s Y2K for SEOs

Missed in all of the hysteria around Mobilegeddon was the arrival of another algorithmic change, one with a very serious effect. On April 29, Google-watchers and site owners detected another “big” change creating huge drops in traffic for sites impacted. Because this change sneaked in without warning, it has been dubbed “Phantom 2.” The change seems to attack the same problems addressed by Panda — the ever-pervasive and deadly — thin content. There is also speculation that another Penguin is hatching in Mountain View, readying an attack on over-optimization and other violations of Google’s rules of the road.

As the calendar reached April 21, site owners, unable to ensure that their sites were “mobile-friendly,” were anticipating Mobilegeddon — huge ranking drops and dramatic traffic drops as Google implemented its new mobile-friendly algorithmic change. So what happened? On the April 22, there were no huge drops in traffic, penalties galore and havoc wrought. Instead, the results have been reminiscent of the Y2K phenomena where much was made of a potential disaster, but nothing of major consequence occurred. Was Mobilegeddon a fizzle or does it just have slow-burning fuse?

The fact that big changes did not occur in no way signals that sites, not yet designated mobile-friendly, are in the clear, so to speak. It is not atypical for a Google algorithmic change to take a period of time to roll out across the system. I like to think of it in sailing terms. They take the change out for a shakedown cruise and, depending on how it performs, set it off to sail around the globe. The data suggests that Google was already in shakedown mode prior to April 21.

Why did Mobilegeddon pass over us? Was it like an asteroid narrowly missing Earth? Not hardly! The answer is simple. Just as with Y2K, site owners, given advanced warning, were ready. It seems that many site owners, particularly those with top rankings to protect, heeded Google’s warnings and took the steps to ensure that they meet the criteria to be mobile-friendly prior to April 21. With fewer sites eligible (perhaps, a less than desirable state) for demotion for failing to meet the criteria, there is a smaller potential zone of impact. Many top-ranking sites hopped right to it and made sure that they were ready for the “big change;” hence, the big change was a big nothing. It still remains to be seen what the long-term impacts will be.

Missed in all of the hysteria around Mobilegeddon was the arrival of another algorithmic change, one with a very serious effect. On April 29, Google-watchers and site owners detected another “big” change creating huge drops in traffic for sites impacted. Because this change sneaked in without warning, it has been dubbed “Phantom 2.” The change seems to attack the same problems addressed by Panda — the ever-pervasive and deadly — thin content. There is also speculation that another Penguin is hatching in Mountain View, readying an attack on over-optimization and other violations of Google’s rules of the road.

There is a lesson to be learned from this recent set of shocks to the SEO system. Not all of Google’s major changes will be announced. Prompt response to announced changes is insurance against predictable/announced penalties. This is just one element of preparedness. Panda and Penguin updates are part of the landscape and will not always be announced. This makes it important to be ever-vigilant for thin content. I am an avid gardener and regularly prune my plants. It seems that for a site to stay healthy in today’s search ecosystem (that is, achieve and maintain solid rankings), the site managers need to evaluate, prune and enhance their pages to ensure continued growth. Because Panda-type algorithmic changes are going to be an ongoing part of the search ecosystem, site owners and their SEOs need to set a schedule to perform a regular Panda review — a critical look for content that is weak, does not engage the user or has been overwhelmed by boilerplate language to the extent that it offers little real value. I would also like to suggest a similar regular review of overall SEO practices to forestall any raging Penguins hatched in Mountain View. And, remember that the only predictable thing in search is that change is coming.

How Social Media Impacts SEO

SEO is evolving at what feels like “ludicrous” speed. When I was getting started in 2006, on-page keyword density, a cursory understanding of HTML meta tags and links from article directories were about all you needed to know to get a page to rank high in Google.

SEO is evolving at what feels like “ludicrous” speed. When I was getting started in 2006, on-page keyword density, a cursory understanding of HTML meta tags and links from article directories were about all you needed to know to get a page to rank high in Google.

Then Google tweaked their algorithm and higher-quality link-building was the golden ticket to a #1 ranking. Fast forward to today and the old-school tactics of just a few years ago no longer work. That’s because SEO has evolved and grown to the point where engagement is the new measurement of success.

Old-School SEO Is Dead
In my experience talking with business owners every day, there is a huge misconception that SEO is simply about HTML meta tags and backlinks. That’s what I call old-school SEO and it’s been dead for a while now.

As mentioned above, SEO is now about engagement. To be successful in ranking high in Google, plus driving traffic and ultimately leads and sales from SEO, you need to focus on engaging your target prospects online. That means creating compelling content your prospects would want to read and share with their friends and colleagues.

And, of course, where do people share content online? You guessed it: social media! That brings us to the first way social media impacts SEO…

  1. Content Distribution
    To clarify, I am not saying that on-page SEO factors like HTML tags or off-page factors like backlinks are no longer important. They are—and always have been—the foundation of a solid SEO strategy.

    What has changed is the shift from old-school link-building tactics to more natural content distribution. Sharing content on social media accomplishes two important goals for SEO:

    • Your content can spread virally, which drives more traffic and more engagement with your website. This can also lead to more brand searches in Google, further reinforcing your authority.
    • Your content can get in front of other bloggers and news sources who in turn are more likely to link to your webpages. As mentioned already, backlinks are still critical for SEO so this leads to higher rankings.
  2. Control Your Brand in Google
    When you search for a company in Google, what do you see? Most likely, you’ll find the company’s website, Google+ profile page, LinkedIn page, Facebook page, Twitter page and any other social media profiles.

    Clearly, Google gives preference to company social media pages in their search results. This is good news because it’s not hard to set up your social media pages and nearly instantly dominate the results for brand searches.

    Why is this important? Well, before a prospect contacts you, they most likely going to do their homework online. That means searching for your brand in Google and reviewing the websites they find. By creating and maintaining active social media profiles, you put yourself in control of your brand in Google.

  3. SEO Expands Beyond Google
    Google is the top search engine, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore Bing. Bing has said they do take social media signals like the number of Twitter followers into account when ranking webpages. That means social media activity directly impacts your rankings on Bing.

    Plus, let’s not forget about searches on the social media sites themselves. That’s right, social media sites are search engines as well! Every day people are searching on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and others to find content and search for businesses. If you ignore social media, then you obviously miss out on the opportunity to get your business in front of those relevant searches.

Do you want more SEO tips? I created a simple checklist that walks you through specific actions you can take to improve your rankings and traffic. Click here to get my SEO Checklist.

Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. Due to the shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. As I’m sure you know, mobile traffic and the number of Google searches from mobile devices is on the rise. Well, it’s more than rising, because it’s about to surpass desktop computer traffic online by the end of the year.

Due to this shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said this Google update will have a bigger impact on search rankings than the infamous Panda or Penguin updates. If you’ve been following SEO for a while, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the Panda and Penguin updates, which both caused massive changes in website rankings.

In other words, April 21 should have sent a lot of ill-prepared businesses off of the first page of Google!

What Do You Need to Do to Fix It?
If you haven’t already, then now is the time to get serious about your mobile website strategy. Answer these three questions to determine if you were ready for the April 21 update:

  1. Do you have a mobile version of your website?

  2. Can Google’s mobile bots crawl your website?

  3. Are your mobile webpages easy to use and navigate?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you need to take action ASAP. Let’s go through each one in more detail.

1. Mobile Website
The two most common options to create a mobile website are:

  1. Create a separate mobile website on a subdomain like m.yourdomain.com. This is a great option if you have a limited budget. In fact, you can set this up for free using DudaMobile.com. If you have a complex website or a large e-commerce website, then this is not going to be a good option for you and I would recommend Option No. 2.
  2. Create a responsive website. A responsive website responds automatically to the device requesting the pages and displays the page differently depending on the device. Many popular CMS systems like WordPress have themes that are already responsive, so I recommend using an existing theme whenever possible. If you’re just getting started, then I highly recommend creating a responsive website rather than a separate mobile website because it’s easier to maintain in the long run.

2. Allow Google’s Mobile Bots
This should be fairly obvious, but if Google’s mobile bots can’t crawl your website, then Google is not going to show your website in the search results. It’s like your website doesn’t exist!

To check if Google can crawl your website, go to Google Webmaster Tools. Create an account (if you don’t have one already) and then go to the Crawl section in the left navigation. Then click “Fetch as Google”, select “Mobile: Smartphone” and click the big red button that says “Fetch.” Google will then tell you if there are any issues crawling your mobile website.

3. Mobile Website Usability
Finally, go to every page on your mobile website and make sure the pages are easy to use and navigate. Google started using mobile usability as a ranking factor as of April 21. Check all the images, hyperlinks, videos, and any other functionality normally available on the desktop version and fix anything that’s broken on the mobile version because that will drag down your rankings.

Top 10 Local SEO Best Practices for Small Businesses

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

Have you ever wondered how you could get your business to show up on the first page of Google, along with a map showing your prospective customers exactly where your business is located? The answer is to use local search engine optimization (SEO).

With local SEO, you can get your business in front of prospects at the precise moment when they are literally searching for you. It doesn’t get much better than this. However, due to all the Google algorithm updates, local SEO is not quite as easy as it used to be. Whether you’re an SEO veteran or you’re just getting started, use the top 10 best practices in this article to give your business the best shot at ranking on the first page of Google’s local results.

  1. Claim and Complete a Google+ Local Page
    Next time you search in Google to find a business, pay close attention to the big map in the upper right corner of the results page. An entire section of the results list is devoted to the businesses that appear on that map. But here’s the catch: Google doesn’t pull the business information from websites. They are pulled from Google+ Local business pages!

    Setting up your Google+ Local page is easy and free, but you need to pay attention to what you are doing. The number one rule is to create only a single page per location. Creating duplicate Local pages is forbidden by Google’s Terms of Service, and can hurt your rankings.

    In addition, your page must use relevant categories. Think of categories like sections of the Yellow Pages, so the more categories you choose the better—as long as you don’t choose irrelevant categories, which is also against Google’s Terms of Service. Choosing categories can be difficult, so use this list for help.

  2. Add Your Service and Geographic Keywords to Page Titles
    This is especially critical for your homepage, but is a Best Practice for all your web pages. Title tags are like chapter names in a book—they tell Google what the page is all about. Your homepage title tag is like the book’s cover. It needs to be enticing but accurate, and explain to Google what the website holds. For local SEO, adding both the service and geographic keywords to your title tags lets Google know that your site is relevant to people searching for your particular service in your local area.
  3. Make Your NAP Consistent—and Omnipresent
    NAP is an acronym for the most important information when it comes to optimizing for local SEO. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.

    Google strives to provide the most accurate, credible information to its users. Therefore, before displaying your information, the algorithm cross-checks your NAP across not only your Google+ local page, but the entire Internet! To ensure your NAP is consistent, I recommend searching for your business name in the Moz Local search tool.

  4. Add Pages for Different Services and Locations
    If you provide multiple services, and/or practice in different locations, make sure you create a separate web page for each. Although it may seem redundant, this step is crucial to local SEO. You simply cannot optimize the same page for Houston, Texas, and Deer Park, Texas, and expect it to perform well for either location. Likewise, a page with keywords for both oil changes and collision repair is not truly optimized for either. Make sure that each page is entirely unique, and target each to a core keyword phrase.
  5. Install Schema
    Schema markup is a type of HTML code that tells Google more about your website. When a human reads a particular page, he or she innately understands certain things about that page, such as exactly what is being discussed. Search engines, however, have a much more limited understanding. Schema bridges that gap by adding machine-understandable explanations. Many webmasters are not yet using this valuable tool, so this is a great opportunity to get a jump on your competition.
  6. Get Customer Reviews on Google+ Local
    Unfortunately, getting customer reviews is one of the most challenging tasks that small business owners face, and there is no magical shortcut. The two keys to success are first to ask, and second to make it as easy as possible for your customers leave an online review. Even when you make things easy for your customers, this will be a slow process, but over time, it will improve your local rankings and create a big barrier for your competitors.
  7. Create a Mobile-Optimized Website
    Increasingly, consumers are turning to their phones and other mobile devices when searching for products and services. This is even more true for those who are looking for local companies, which means you absolutely must have a mobile-friendly website to compete in the local search results.

    If you’re like most businesses, then you have been dragging your feet and putting off investing in a mobile website. Well, the time has finally come because on April 21, 2015 Google will launch an algorithm update that will drastically change the mobile search results. In short, if your site is not mobile-optimized at that time, your rankings will suffer dramatically in any Google search launched on a mobile device-which is approximately 50% of all searches today!

  8. Provide High-Quality Website Content
    The importance of high quality content is nothing new for SEO. However, until recently this wasn’t a big factor in the local search rankings. Now, failing to create well-written, unique, informative web pages with at least 500 words of content each could mean your business will not show up when prospective customers are searching for you.
  9. Build High-Quality Links to Your Website
    Again, this is nothing new for SEO, but it’s a fairly new factor for local SEO. Your domain authority, or online reputation, is now a critical factor in your local Google rankings. One of the biggest factors in your domain authority is the quantity and quality of relevant links from other websites.

    As you gain more and more high-quality links, then your domain authority will increase, and in turn, your local rankings will also improve.

  10. Be Active on Social Media
    Exactly how much of an impact social media presence has on local SEO is currently the subject of hot debate. What is not open for debate, however, is the fact that social media is a great way to generate buzz and get exposure for your business. This exposure can lead to more referral traffic, more high-quality links, more reviews, and more online comments about your business, which are all signals that will improve your local Google rankings.

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6 Keys to Search Success in 2014

What if someone gave you scientific data on what hundreds of sites are doing to get thousands of top keyword rankings on Google? Would you, or could you, make changes to your site to match the criteria for achieving these rankings? The data is now available. Searchmetrics has just released a new study, part of a multiyear longitudinal study on ranking factors, entitled “SEO Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations 2014—Google U.S.” In this lengthy whitepaper, there are some big takeaways and lots of guidance, which savvy search marketers will turn into action plans—or roadmaps for success, as I prefer to think of them. Here are some of the nuggets gleaned from the research:

What if someone gave you scientific data on what hundreds of sites are doing to get thousands of top keyword rankings on Google? Would you, or could you, make changes to your site to match the criteria for achieving these rankings? The data is now available. Searchmetrics has just released a new study, part of a multiyear longitudinal study on ranking factors, entitled “SEO Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations 2014—Google U.S.” In this lengthy whitepaper, there are some big takeaways and lots of guidance, which savvy search marketers will turn into action plans—or roadmaps for success, as I prefer to think of them. Here are some of the nuggets gleaned from the research:

  • SEO Success Requires Vigilance—the study reinforces that good SEO is, in fact, the culmination of hundreds of tactical efforts, all executed precisely and flawlessly. SEO is changing and evolving so that tactics that garnered top rankings just a few years ago may not be as significant today; therefore, it is important to continuously tune your program based on precise new information.
  • Basic SEO Is Not Enough—These are the stakes needed to even play at the table: robust site architecture with good internal links, short loading times and the presence of all relevant Meta tags, such as Title and Description. You cannot expect your basic optimization efforts to do all the work. They are just the foundation for search success.
  • Bring on the Content—Content must be richer and longer. Most top-ranking pages include about 900 words, 17 sentences or so of real content. This content must engage the user, contain the keywords you are targeting and be highly readable by your audience. With Google moving to a holistic approach to page relevancy, so, too, must content creators. They need to include not just the keyword target, but other semantically relevant keywords. The days are long gone where keyword stuffing and pages of weak content with the same keyword repeated over and over were successful.
  • Quality Links, Not Just Quantity—Success in Google has always required attention to the site’s linkage profile. Today, link-building should really be transformed into link-curation. The Searchmetrics report clearly emphasizes the importance of focusing on high-quality links and paying closer attention to internal linking structures. Most SEO efforts focus on external link-building and forget about removing broken, irrelevant and unnecessary links. These should be part of the basic “housekeeping” activities for the site.
  • Social Media Just Give Signals—Social media provide valuable signals for Google as to the worth of your content. The Searchmetrics study has shown that these signals are less valuable to Google in 2014 compared to 2013. The jury is still out as to exactly how they contribute, but more shares and likes impact rankings positively. Make no mistake—social media likes, pins and mentions are not magic bullets for improving rankings. Social media provide Google signals as to how valuable users find the content on your site. Your efforts should be focused on the user.
  • It Is All About the User—If you want to rank well, users must find your content interesting. The study found that URLs with top rankings had clickthrough rates (CTRs) of 32 percent and the 10th highest ranking URL had a 3 percent CTR. Users clicking through typically stay on the top-ranking pages 101 seconds and exhibit only a 37 percent bounce rate. Users stay longer on top-ranked pages—30 seconds longer than on a page in the 4th position. If your data shows that your pages have low clickthrough rates, short stays and high bounce rates, you cannot really expect top rankings. To put it bluntly, your pages are not worthy. The challenge is to use the information in the Searchmetrics study to improve your site’s performance. This means taking a long, hard look at what you are doing right and have a willingness to address issues that might be impairing your performance in search. Just remember, SEO success is hundreds of rapidly changing tactics, flawlessly executed.

Should You Make Your Site Secure for Improved SEO Results?

Just this past month Google confirmed that in the future, its search algorithm would be giving a rankings boost to secure sites. This confirms rumors that have rippled through the search marketing industry for several months. This recent change is part of Google’s continuing efforts toward a more secure Web. Like so many pronouncements from Google, this has forced many site owners to reconsider whether to make their sites secure. Site owners need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of going secure. It may not be either prudent or cost effective at this time.

Just this past month Google confirmed that in the future, its search algorithm would be giving a rankings boost to secure sites. This confirms rumors that have rippled through the search marketing industry for several months. This recent change is part of Google’s continuing efforts toward a more secure Web. Like so many pronouncements from Google, this has forced many site owners to reconsider whether to make their sites secure. Site owners need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of going secure. It may not be either prudent or cost effective at this time.

When Google made all searches secure and stopped providing site owners the keywords used by searchers to sites, the search giant gave a clear indication of its path and direction toward a ensuring a more secure, safe, Web environment. Google reasoned that it is protecting the identity of the searcher by not providing the keyword referrer. Some find this claim a bit disingenuous, given that the keyword referrer is still available for users of paid search.

The Pros and Cons—A Short Primer
The single-largest benefit gained by making your site secure is a minor algorithmic boost in Google results. This benefit must be weighed against a number of potential negatives and some steep costs. Secure sites run slower than unsecure sites—all that encryption takes more effort than just delivering an unsecure site. Several years ago, Google announced that site speed was going to figure into the rankings formula. At this time, it is unclear whether the rankings boost from having a secure site will be larger than the penalty for slowness. Google does not reveal the valences of its ranking factors, except for declaring some minor. Unless you have made your unsecure site fast and have in place protocols for continuously monitoring and testing your site’s speed, don’t even consider going secure. It will be like adding another brake to it. Your users and your Google rankings will be negatively impacted. A perceived need to possibly go secure in the future should be the impetus to address existing site speed issues.

Then there is the potential for additional penalties for duplicate content, should redirection and canonicalization schemes prove incomplete. The task of shifting and redirecting a very large site into a secure environment is a large task and may require remapping thousands of URLs. No matter how good your team is, you should expect leaks and misses. It is practically built into such projects. If your site is well-mapped and setting redirections and canonicalization are automated, then you may be ready to go secure. If this is not the case, tap the brakes on going secure. You may be creating huge headaches with just minor payback potential.

Did I mention that there are added costs? SSL certificates must be bought and maintained. How often have you gotten a message that a site’s certificate is out of date? You can be sure that Google will take a dim view of sites with expired certificates. Another unnecessary hit! Then, there are the operating costs. Many small businesses rely on gateways and do not manage a secure environment even though they take payments. If your business already has a secure environment in place and you have fully prepared your entire operation for this change, then and only then should you implement having a completely secure site. If you are not ready, consider what steps you should take to get ready and begin the process, for we can expect others to follow Google’s lead in making the Web safer and more secure.